SOUTH Sydney and Canterbury - two traditional and famous teams - playing for a spot in the NRL grand final before 70,000 fans. It doesn't get much better than this.
All season these two clubs have earned and attracted deserved praise. To get their teams to this stage of the season much of this praise should fall at the feet of the respective coaches. Both in there first year’s at their clubs, Maguire a rookie head coach in the NRL. Hasler with a wealth of experience from his days at the Eagles.
Des has the Dogs playing a brand of footy that compliments the roster he inherited. They’re not reliant to heavily on any one player, everyone plays a role. That said there have been a number of outstanding individual performances throughout the year.
South Sydney have been moulded by Maguire from a team that played an off the cuff style with some obvious talent, to a side that now has structure, discipline and the ability to build pressure. That talent is still there, in abundance, it is just better equipped.
Both teams’ strengths lie in their structures and the brilliant individuals they have to run them. We could talk all day on the strengths of these two, however I thought we’d look at the area’s where both are vulnerable.
And, ironically, their major deficiency is identical - their right side defence.
Canterbury hasn't shown too many chinks in their armor this season but I thought Manly exposed them at times in week one of the finals.The Bulldogs right side defence of Josh Jackson, Josh Reynolds, Krisnan Inu and Sam Perrett looked quiet vulnerable at times against the Sea Eagles.
On at least six occasions Manly opened up the Dogs right side defenders and it was only through effective scramble that Canterbury limited Manly to two tries, both coming down that side of the field.
As skilled and tenacious as he is, Josh Reynolds tends to be the problem here. He likes to make his mind up and react quickly to where he thinks the ball is going. Often he will rush out of the line to shut the play down. Sometimes his outside men will follow, sometimes they don’t.
That is the issue.
Reynolds gets it right defensively most of the time but when he rushes up, holes are created. Looking to expose that staggered defensive line will be John Sutton, who will be coming at them with Sam Burgess. I thought it was a smart move from Maguire to shift big Sam to the edges and start with his brother Luke in tight. It worked against the Raiders and will give the Bunnies a better chance of exposing the Dogs weakness.
The times that the outside players follow Reynolds in and present a straight defensive line doesn’t necessarily solve the issues for the Dogs.
This creates a shortened defensive line. A second-man play on these occasions, with Inglis sweeping around the back could cause the Bulldogs plenty of headaches.
South Sydney's weakness is the same. Their right side defence of Dave Taylor, Adam Reynolds, Dylan Farrell and Andrew Everingham can look rather fragile at times.
Canberra tore holes in the Rabbitohs right side last weekend - Raiders halfback Sam Williams had Taylor second-guessing all night. There’s no doubt about Taylor’s ability with the ball, but there is a real concern with his reads in defence. This is who the Dogs will target. They’ll come in numbers with Pritchard, Morris and Barba.
Outside Taylor will be Adam Reynolds, who is courageous, but is small, which will always make him a target. The confusion on the inside places the number seven under enormous pressure. He can be isolated and extremely vulnerable.
There are so many variables that will decide the victor on Saturday night. However the winner of this massive game, just might be the one which is more successful in exposing the deficiencies in their oppositions right side defence.
This should be one of the great finals in NRL history. It deserves to be played before a sell-out crowd.
BOY, I wish I had a dollar for every word written about Referee Co-coaches Bill Harrigan and Stuart Raper this week.
Yes, the errors made in the Manly-North Queensland game were match-defining and, yes, rugby league deserved better.
But just sacking Harrigan and Raper isn't necessarily the answer.
I think they are adjudicating the game under the rules - and therein lies the problems.
I think we need to have a good, hard look at the rule book. Maybe an off-season summit where the game's best thinkers gather to discuss how the game could be better.
Should Benefit of the Doubt go to the defensive team? Should we simplify the obstruction rule? Should we have one dominant ref and a pocket ref?
The referees have been okay this year. It's the video referees that have caused most of the drama.
Some suggest we should try and attract former NRL players to become video referees but how is that going to fix the problem? Fair dinkum.
I like the idea from Canterbury coach Des Hasler this week. He called for the referees to decide on contentious tries, rather than the video ref. Hasler suggested the two on-field refs determine a decision by watching a sideline television monitor, much like they do in the NFL.
I agree. The refs should make the call. They are only metres away and they would already have a gut feeling on the decision. The less responsibility we give the video refs the better.